Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Research Prominence

William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.


Teaching music online in the pandemic has yielded creative surprises

From incorporating video-based performances to learning new composition apps, teaching students virtually has forced music educators to learn and share new ways to reach students.

Blob Opera, developed by Google and AI artist David Li, lets students manipulate a soprano, alto, tenor and bass quartet of blobs. (YoutTube/Google Arts & Culture)

Learning to make music is a full mind-and-body activity. Whether teaching how to play a musical instrument, or how to sing, teachers rely on learners’ physical cues to help them progress — cues that are often obscured either by watching someone on a screen or listening through a microphone. As a music educator, I’d hazard that few school music teachers would opt to teach their students remotely.

The ConversationHowever, as many teachers and students have discovered in the last two years of on-and-off virtual school, music lessons during the pandemic have unearthed some pleasant surprises.

Going online has forced music educators to adapt existing ideas, or adopt existing technology, to discover, invent and share ways to reach students to keep music education alive.

Instrument-free music

During the pandemic, most school-based music teachers have faced the challenge that elementary students don’t have access to instruments at home. This often leaves online tools as the default. As school budgets are always stretched, it’s important for programs to be very inexpensive or preferably free.

At the elementary level, students can enjoy and learn from apps such as Incredibox, where students can explore beatboxing, combining rhythms and sound effects to create unique pieces. Beatboxing musicians who create complete musical works manipulating their breathing, mouths and throats inspired this tool’s development.

Or teachers can introduce students to choral exploration in Blob Opera, a “machine learning model trained on the voices of four opera singers,” developed by Google and AI artist David Li. In Blob Opera, students manipulate four operatic blobs — a soprano, alto, tenor and bass quartet — and can have them sing a variety of pieces on global stages. Students can “take the blobs on tour” where they might sing a Korean folk song in Seoul, or a piece by composer Erik Satie in Paris.

On various platforms, students are able to share their creations live with teachers and classmates. I’ve found that when we introduce technology to students, they often take it in unexpected directions. One student I was teaching set up a rhythm on Incredibox and left that window open and playing to accompany a Blob Opera set: not an obvious musical pairing but a wonderfully creative one.

Learning from home with instruments

Even before the pandemic, some music researchers were interested in helping educators overcome hurdles with teaching instrumental music online and how online lessons could benefit children in rural locations. However, singing and playing instruments online comes with its own set of technological issues, the most prominent of which is time lag — what some of my students refer to as “glitchiness.”

However, research conducted during the pandemic suggests that teaching students how to play instruments online can offer music teachers the chance to redefine curriculum, set new goals for students and consider new criteria for evaluation.

For students who have access to instruments at home, music teachers can use a flexible accompaniment app like SmartMusic. Without altering pitch (a critical capability), students can change playback speeds, manipulate the nature of accompaniment they hear, activate a metronome and even click on individual notes in a score to show the fingering and sound of the note for specific instruments.

This program costs money, but schools are able to purchase site licenses, thus making the resource accessible to more students.

Sound exploration

Google’s Chrome Music Lab suite offers learning for K-8 students. Younger children can explore rhythm, or teachers and students can explore melody, harmony, form, duration, rhythm, timbre and tempo to compose relatively complex electronica, save projects and submit them for assessment.

At the secondary level, teachers can encourage students to explore and collaborate on Bandlab, a program akin to Apple’s Garageband. Students can compose pieces using standard western notation on the web-based Noteflight — especially accessible because it requires no downloads or sharing of personal information.

Some online offerings promote healthy movement at home. Ollie Tunmer, British body percussionist and former STOMP cast member, hosts professional development for teachers and short lessons for kids.

Other teachers have posted clips exploring form and movement in music, based on techniques from an approach to teaching rhythmic movement, listening and embodied music intuition known as Dalcroze Eurythmics and subsequent work by early childhood music educator John Feierabend.

Making music education more inclusive

Aside from making music at home accessible for many students, online learning that focuses more on pop music, electronica and rhythm-heavy musics tends to shift the curricular emphasis away from predominantly western art music like “classical” genres.

Music researcher Margaret Walker examines how music education in the West has traditionally advanced European exceptionalism and cultural superiority. Walker is one of many music educators promoting music education that reflects the cultural diversity of learners. Music education researcher Lucy Green found that students who have more choice about their own repertoires are more successful and stay with music longer.

Revising music curricula to be more inclusive may involve both introducing new forms of music, but also repositioning canonical artists like Mozart and Bach within a broader musical context to allow entry and success for more learners.

Learning about music

Music curriculum calls not just for making music but also learning about music. Online read alouds, — narrated stories accompanied with music — existed before the pandemic but likely became even more useful in remote contexts. Favourites of my students include Sergei Prokofiev’s 1936 composition Peter and The Wolf and the 2015 children’s book Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews.

Music educators and students also benefit from the isolation-inspired composite style videos such as the Kingston Youth Orchestra’s performance of Cold Play’s “Viva La Vida,” especially when students cannot currently attend live performances.

For younger children, Evan Mitchell, conductor of the Kingston Symphony, launched a children’s online music series, Harmon in Space! The series sees Harmon, a fuzzy dog puppet, isolated on a spaceship. Harmon’s limited social contact happens via online chats with musical friends — members of the Kingston Symphony. The first episode has over 11,000 views on YouTube. When I interviewed Mitchell, he said he has received many letters from children concerned for Harmon’s safe return to Earth.

No one wants remote music education to become the norm for most students. But the creative minds who have made it feasible, fun and often productive have given us unexpected gifts and welcome strains of beauty amidst global noise.The Conversation


Robbie MacKay, Lecturer in Musicology, Dan School of Drama & Music, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Early career chemist earns Ontario’s Polanyi Prize

Farnaz Heidar-Zadeh is advancing innovative computational molecular design techniques to support new drug development and other applications.

[Photo of Dr. Farnaz Heidar-Zadeh]
Dr. Farnaz Heidar-Zadeh (Chemistry)

When scientists need chemical compounds for a new drug or to develop a new material, they look to nature’s repository to see what they can find. Otherwise, they must create entirely novel molecules with the specific characteristics they need. Farnaz Heidar-Zadeh, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, is advancing new methods and software that will improve efficiency in molecular design. For this work, she has been awarded the Council of Ontario Universities' (COU) 2021 Polanyi Prize in Chemistry, which is granted annually to early career researchers.

"The Ontario government supports exceptional research that advances new discoveries and innovation, fosters a skilled labour force, and promotes economic growth," said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities, at the COU prize announcement. "Recipients of the John C. Polanyi Prizes are producing much-needed solutions to address some of life’s most challenging problems to ensure a bright future for the people of Ontario."

A banner week for Queen’s chemistry
The Polanyi Prize win comes just on the heels of Queen’s chemistry professor, Dr. Cathleen Crudden, receiving $24M in support from the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund. Crudden and team are developing a fundamentally new approach for protecting metal surfaces that could transform industries. Read more.

Dr. Heidar-Zadeh has combined quantum chemistry and machine learning to make computational molecular design faster, scalable, and more economical. The innovative approach melds state-of-the-art machine-learning algorithms with data from quantum mechanics to expedite screening millions of molecules to identify promising compounds for further theoretical and experimental scrutiny. One of the applications of this work is the efficient design and ability to test millions of molecules that can be used to develop new drugs. The same methods can also be used to explore phenomena that can be expensive or dangerous to experiment with, like astrochemistry and physiological responses.

"Having my research recognized by the Polanyi prize is not only a huge honour, but it also endorses and accelerates my group’s endeavour," says Dr. Heidar-Zadeh. "Following Polanyi’s lead, I hope our research brings fundamental insights into chemical phenomena and practical benefits to Canadian society."

Dr. Heidar-Zadeh holds a B.Sc. in chemistry, a M.Sc. in theoretical chemistry from Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran, Iran), and a dual-Ph.D. in chemistry from McMaster University and physics from Ghent University. She has also completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Luxembourg, Ghent University, and the University of California at Berkeley before joining Queen’s University, where she co-leads the QC-Devs software development team and is the lead developer for the ChemTools and HORTON software packages.

"The COU Polanyi Prizes showcase Ontario’s early career researchers at a critical point in their research trajectories and provides them with tools to advance groundbreaking and innovative work," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "My sincere congratulations to Dr. Heidar-Zadeh and the other recipients!"

The COU grants the Polanyi Prize ($20,000 value) annually to early career researchers or post-doctoral scholars working at Ontario universities in the areas of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and economic science. The award honours the legacy of John Charles Polanyi, a University of Toronto professor who received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies on the dynamics of chemical reactions. Dr. Heidar-Zadeh is the fifth Queen’s laureate to receive the prestigious prize. The other recipients, include Graeme Howe (Department of Chemistry, 2020), Nicholas Jay Mosey (Department of Chemistry, 2009), Derek Andrew Pratt (Department of Chemistry, 2007), and Kevin John Robbie (Department of Physics, 1999).

For more information on the 2021 Polanyi Prize recipients, visit the Council of Ontario Universities website.

Six Canada Research Chairs announced for Queen’s

The Canada Research Chairs program advances the country’s position as a leader in discovery and innovation.

As part of a bundled science announcement made today by the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne five researchers at Queen’s University have been named Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs (CRC) – including two new appointments and three renewals  and one Tier 2 CRC. The prestigious honour recognizes outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields

The new CRCs are Katherine McKittrick (Gender Studies) (Tier 1), Caroline Pukall (Psychology) (Tier 1), and Kimberly Dunham-Snary (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) (Tier 2). Ying Zou (Electrical and Computer Engineering) has been promoted from a Tier 2 to a Tier 1 Chair, and, seeing a renewal of their Tier 1 CRC appointments, are Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), and Alan Jeffrey Giacomin (Chemical Engineering).

“The Canada Research Chairs program continues to attract  and retain our country’s best and brightest researchers,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). “Each of these outstanding researchers will continue to contribute to new discoveries across multiple disciplines, enhancing the culture of research excellence here at Queen’s.” 

Support for cutting-edge research
As part of today’s bundled science announcement, Queen’s also received over $24 million in support from the New Frontiers in Research Fund: Transformation stream to advance research into cutting-edge molecular coatings that preserve metals from deteriorating. Additionally, for the 2020-21 period Queen’s University received a total of 281 Tri-Agency Scholarships and Fellowships for graduate students, with an overall funding value of more than $7.25 million.

The CRC program is a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canada’s national funding bodies. There are two levels to the CRC program: Tier 1 chairs (seven-year term) are recognized by their peers as world leaders in their respective fields, while Tier 2 chairs (five-year term) are recognized as emerging leaders in their research areas.

Currently, Queen’s is home to 49 Canada Research Chairs.

“I am beyond proud of the Canadian institutions and researchers who think outside disciplines and borders to tackle major challenges,” says Minister Champagne. “These programs are a catalyst for amplifying new voices, insights and discoveries that will answer communities’ needs, elevate our innovation hub and shape Canada’s prosperity for years to come. Congratulations to all recipients!”

Overall, on Wednesday, the Government of Canada, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), invested than $9.5 million in research infrastructure to support 43 Canada Research Chairs at 19 institutions across the country.

Queen’s new and renewed CRCs are:

Katherine McKittrickKatherine McKittrick (Gender Studies), CRC in Black Studies, Tier 1 (SSHRC)

Dr. McKittrick’s research program will analyze the interdisciplinary contours of Black Studies and the emergence of ecological and aesthetic themes in this field. Theorizing interdisciplinarity as a decolonial epistemology and methodology, the project uniquely decenters self-identity and emphasizes collaborative and creative knowledge-making as entwined with physiography. Specifically, drawing out and employing methodologies in Black Studies will uncover a sustained engagement with how the racial dimensions of climate catastrophe are creatively theorized in black communities.

Caroline PukallCaroline Pukall (Psychology), CRC in Sexual Health, Tier 1 (CIHR)

Genitopelvic pain affects one in five people, negatively impacting their sexuality, mental health, and quality of life. Dr. Pukall will reposition her work by focusing on genitopelvic pain in sexually- and gender diverse populations, significantly expanding the narrow lens inherent in the field by conducting an inclusive, online, longitudinal survey to establish key knowledge about pain and sexuality experiences, developing an effective pain management program that espouses diversity, and applying a multimethod framework to investigate the sensory and vascular correlates of pain.

Kimberly Dunham-SnaryKimberly Dunham-Snary (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), CRC in Mitochondrial and Metabolic Regulation in Health and Disease, Tier 2 (CIHR)

Dr. Dunham-Snary wants improve care for patients with cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs), including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension (high blood pressure) by identifying a ‘fingerprint’ for CMD to enable early intervention for sub-populations at risk. CMDs are metabolic diseases associated with dysfunctional mitochondria (the energy powerhouse of the cell). She will will explore how mitochondrial structure and genetics alter the body’s cell signaling switchboard, causing cell growth, inflammation, and other issues leading to CMD. 

Ying ZouYing Zou (Electrical and Computer Engineering), CRC in Software Evolution, Tier 1 (NSERC)

We rely on software applications to pay our bills, to shop, and to stream videos online. Their quality is critical and cannot be compromised by their ever-increasing user base and programming complexity. Dr. Zou’s research program will develop leading-edge methods and tools in software analytics and apply machine learning techniques to build smart infrastructure that can provide intelligent support for software development and evolution, leading to a substantial improvement in software engineering practices with respect to the quality and cost-effective development and evolution of reliable software applications.

Mark DaymondMark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), CRC in Mechanics of Materials, Tier 1 (NSERC)

Understanding how materials deform and fail is crucial in many applications, as we try and design components. For example maximizing the lifetime of power plant components, or minimizing the weight of automotive components, with resultant fuel savings.  Practical engineering materials like metals are complex, inhomogeneous collections of crystals or grains. These grains have different behaviours dependent on orientation and surroundings. Dr. Daymond’s program investigates the influence of such local inhomogeneity and the resulting internal stress on materials' deformation as well as the processes occurring under stress and temperature fluctuations. One particular are of interest is the impact of radiation on local scale phenomena. The research will define deformation mechanisms that drive development of practical engineering techniques and component design.

Alan Jeffrey GiacominAlan Jeffrey Giacomin (Chemical Engineering, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy), CRC in Physics of Fluids, Tier 1 (NSERC)

Dr. Giacomin will extend and advance his world-leading studies in rheology to embrace more broadly the physics of fluids, uncovering the physics underlying the flow of matter. Anticipated accomplishments with his team of highly-qualified graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will include predicting nonlinear rheological responses for any macromolecular shape; revealing how macromolecular structure affects polymer processing; and pioneering how the coronavirus spiked structure and its bulbous spike shapes determine the transport properties governing cell binding and infection.

Queen's is currently recruiting a number of new CRC positions in cutting-edge research areas, for more information, visit the Canada Research Chairs recruitment page on the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) Portfolio website.  To find out more about existing CRCs at Queen's, visit the Canada Research Chairs at Queen’s University.

Guatemala: 25 years later, ‘firm and lasting peace’ is nowhere to be found

A person hold the flag of Guatemala
Guatemala marked the 25th anniversary of a peace accord that ended the country's 36-year long civil war on Dec. 29. (Unsplash/Shalom de Leon)

Dec. 29 marked the 25th anniversary of the signing of a peace accord that effectively brought 36 years of armed conflict in Guatemala to an end. When what’s known as the Firm and Lasting Peace Accord was signed, the Guatemalan Civil War was one of the longest, bloodiest conflicts in 20th-century Latin America.

A quarter century later, the peace that was supposed to be “firm and lasting” is anything but. If any peace prevails in Guatemala, it is a peace resembling war.

As a researcher with long-standing interests in the historical geography of Latin America, I have studied Guatemala for many years. A 2019 memoir I wrote revisits the impact of Guatemala’s military-dominated state on its Indigenous Maya Peoples.

A legacy of violence

More than 80 per cent of the civil war casualties were unarmed Indigenous Mayas. A United Nations-backed commission charged the Guatemalan military forces with genocide and held them responsible for 93 per cent of the killings. Guerrilla insurgents, fighting to overthrow the regime, were attributed three per cent of the atrocities.

American anthropologist Victoria Sanford summed up the dire situation following the war this way: if the number of victims kept rising, “more people will die in the first 25 years of peace” than during the country’s brutal civil war, which a UN inquiry documented at more than 200,000.

Sanford’s grim reckoning is manifested in Guatemalan homicide rates. In 2009, murders amounted to a staggering 45 for every 100,000 inhabitants. By comparison, Canada’s homicide rate was 1.95 per 100,000 people in 2020, and in the United States it was 7.8.

Most violent deaths in Guatemala are never investigated, let alone brought before the courts. The cause of most deaths is no longer overtly political in nature, but instead related to gang violence, drug trafficking, extortion rackets, fraudulent dealings and the settling of age-old scores.

During some of the post-accord years — in 2006 for example — there were as many as 500 murders, amounting to 17 a day.

Neoliberalism and massive inequality

Álvaro Arzú was the president of Guatemala when the peace accord was signed in 1996. Although he was one of the officials who signed it, three years later he refused to acknowledge that the atrocities committed during the conflict actually occurred — at least not to the extent alleged, and not by the Guatemalan army.

Under his neoliberal policies, not only did widespread poverty and massive inequality — the primary reasons for confrontation in the first place — remain unaddressed, but they actually increased.

In 1999, the findings of a UN survey of human development ranked Guatemala 117th globally in terms of quality of life, well behind Central American neighbour Costa Rica (ranked 45th) and trailing two others known to be desperately poor, El Salvador (107th) and Honduras (114th).

Over-exploited, not under-developed

Guatemala is not an under-developed country. On the contrary, Guatemala is a country rich in resources, natural and human. But it has been crippled by the distribution of its resources, especially land, and is rife with inequality.

Unequal land distribution lies at the heart of Guatemala’s problems. The country is still strikingly rural, with the lives of thousands of low-income families and those of a privileged few connected by the politics of land ownership.

In Guatemala, 90 per cent of farms account for 16 per cent of total farm area, while two per cent of the total number of farms occupy 65 per cent of total farmland. The best land is used to grow coffee, cotton, bananas and sugar cane for export, not to feed malnourished local populations. Until this imbalance is redressed, problems will endure.

Corrupt leadership

Five presidents who succeeded Arzú all promised economic and social improvement, especially for the 85 per cent of their 17 million citizens deemed by the UN to live in poverty — 70 per cent of them in a state of extreme poverty. None has done any better than Arzú.

Mired by charges of corruption, two former presidents (Alfonso Portillo and Álvaro Colom) were imprisoned after leaving office. Another, Otto Pérez Molina, was removed from office and jailed for accepting bribes so businesses could avoid paying import duties.

An International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was established in 2006 to investigate virulent wrongdoing. The UN-backed CICIG dismantled 60 criminal bands and prosecuted 680 prominent individuals for corrupt activities. In 2019, however, its mandate was revoked and its officers banished by then-president Jimmy Morales.

‘Witch hunt’

Current president Alejandro Giammattei operates similarly to his predecessors. He dismissed anti-corruption prosecutors brave enough to hold tax evaders and money launderers to account.

Giammattei asserts that anti-corruption initiatives have become a witch hunt in which left-leaning lawyers — like judge Juan Francisco Sandoval, who served as Head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity — vilify those on the opposite end of the political spectrum.

“Everybody has a right to their own ideology,” Giammattei said in a recent media interview. “The problem is when you transfer that ideology to your actions, and worse when you are in charge of justice.”

After being relieved of their duties, Sandoval and other prosecutors fled the country, fearing for their safety. United States President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed concern over corruption in Central America, linking it to the despair Guatemalans feel about how they are governed and prompting many to seek a better life in El Norte (North America).

In the past year alone, 280,000 Guatemalans have been apprehended by American border officials in failed attempts to enter the U.S. from Mexico, their journey north fraught with danger.

As 2021 drew to a close, given the precarious manner in which Guatemala continues to be governed, the 25th anniversary of the signing of its peace accord was no cause for celebration.The Conversation


W. George Lovell, Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

A new musical composition memorializes the victims of Flight PS752

Two years ago, 176 passengers and crew were killed when the Iranian military shot down a Ukraine International Airlines jet. An elegy drawing on santur, soprano, percussion, and choir memorializes the victims.

Santur player Sadaf Amini performs in front of singers from the Kingston Chamber Choir. (John Burge)
Santur player Sadaf Amini performs in front of singers from the Kingston Chamber Choir. (Photo provided by John Burge)

On Jan. 8, 2020, the Iranian military shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 while the plane was leaving Iranian airspace.

In total, 176 passengers and crew were killed including 57 Canadian citizens and 29 Canadian permanent residents. The reverberations of this tragedy were felt across Canada and around the world.

A new composition, Flight 752 Elegies, memorializes the victims. This was first broadcast online in December at the website of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts (IBCPA). The centre is located in Kingston, Ont.

Santur with piano

At the time of the Flight PS752 plane crash, I was finishing up work on a composition for string quartet and santur. This 72-stringed instrument of ancient Iranian origin is akin to the hammered dulcimer.

The santur player for this project, Sadaf Amini, is a virtuoso performer and improvisor who was born in Iran and later immigrated to Canada. As we both reside in Kingston, it has been inspirational to hear Sadaf capture beautifully expressive melodies and complicated rhythmic textures on her instrument.

During fall 2019, we began meeting for improvising sessions where I would play the piano and Sadaf would try some of my suggested musical ideas on the santur. The initial goal was to create a composition for santur and string quartet, a project we hoped to realize in the future.

In January 2020, after the tragic news of the crash, we agreed to collaborate on a work for choir and santur in remembrance of the flight’s victims. While I composed all the music for this project, I also provided a few opportunities for passages of improvisation on the santur.

Compositional structure and symbolism

The use of music to create a memorial tribute has a long tradition across cultures and eras. Through my training and creative work as composer I have studied a range of western classical and contemporary musical modes of memorializing.

Some memorial composition titles seek to speak directly to the audience in a powerful way, such as in naming who is being memorialized.

Out of Christian classical traditions come “requiem” compositions (from Latin, meaning “rest,” referring to a mass for the repose of the soul of the dead).

There are also “threnodies” (from Greek, a funeral lament), such as Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.

An elegy is a poem, usually a lament for the dead — but also, there are many purely instrumental compositions from classical and contemporary eras that memorialize using Elegy as a single-word title.

In titling the composition of Flight 752 Elegies, I used the plural form of “elegy” to both imply that each movement would have a different sense of lamentation, but equally to suggest that multiple elegies are required as many individuals were killed. I decided early on that the work would be in seven movements, with a duration of approximately 30 minutes.

Composing and presenting ‘Flight Elegies 752’

Darrell Christie, music director and conductor of the Kingston Chamber Choir, quickly agreed to have the choir contribute to a project and proposed a premiere date in early 2021. However, these plans were put on hold due to COVID-19.

While many live, in-person events and concerts have been cancelled or postponed over the past few years, in Kingston, the resourcefulness and creativity of the IBCPA and its Imagine Project has been tremendously helpful for artists. This project provided musicians with the opportunity to use the IBCPA Concert Hall for creation-based residencies, online arts education and film/recording projects.

Sadaf obtained funding through this project to record a video premiere performance of Flight Elegies 752 at the IBCPA in March 2021. She was joined by soprano, Colleen Renihan, and the Kingston Chamber Choir, and I played the percussion parts.

A woman stands in front of a santur.
Santur player Sadaf Amini. (Photo provided by John Burge)

Consoling, symbolizing loss

The unifying element of this composition is that the choir sings the same wordless music for movements 1, 3, 5 and 7 which serves as a consoling chorale or refrain. Each of these refrains ends with a slightly different final cadence and is sung at a slower tempo with each repetition.

In these “refrain” movements, the santur plays independently of the choir, beginning in the first movement with rhythmic groups of seven notes, then five notes, then two.

Remembering Amir Moradi
Among the 176 victims of Flight PS752 were Iranian students and faculty members from Canadian universities, including Amir Moradi, an undergraduate student at Queen’s.

For Movement 3, the santur is reduced to five- and two-note groups. Movement 5 reduces the santur part to just two-note groups, spaced far apart. In Movement 7, the santur does not play at all.

The arc of hearing the same refrain sung by the choir with diminishing contributions from the santur, can be seen in the choir’s faces and the santur player’s movement, and heard in the music, as a real-time symbol of loss.

In the same way someone grieving can lose a sense of time, the santur’s disregard for the tempo taken by the choir in these refrains mirrors this sense of timelessness. The constant slowing down of the tempo for each subsequent statement of the refrain stretches the sustaining of notes to a level that is almost impossible to sustain. To my own ears, it voices despair.

Verse by Rumi

The even-numbered movements have more active santur and choir parts, sung to poetry referencing the day of one’s death and the soul’s longing by the 13th-century Islamic mystical poet Rumi. Multiple sources of public domain English translations were used in compiling these texts.

Sadaf had long admired and studied the poetry of Rumi in the Farsi language. She indicated it seemed fitting to include the poet’s verses in the composition, especially given how Rumi is well-known in Iran, in Sadaf’s words, for his “passion to merge and unite with the original love between him and his creator.”

Rumi translator Ibrahim Gamard notes that Rumi “remains highly read and appreciated in Iran.” In a 2010 interview, he also said it’s possible the poet is more popular in the West than in Muslim countries.

Omid Safi, a scholar of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, notes that dating back to the Victorian period, westerners began to separate Rumi’s mystical poetry from its Islamic roots with assumptions the poet was “mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.” He has explored Rumi as Muslim sage such as in his book Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition.

In the composition, to give the Rumi movements a more distinctive focus from the refrains, I added simple percussion parts.

Expression of public grief

Most of us cannot know the grief felt by the families and friends of those killed on Flight PS752. However, in taking a moment to listen to and reflect upon Flight 752 Elegies, it is possible to collectively, and with compassion, convey our sorrow.

There is more that could be written about this work, as well the process and efforts to create this video. But best to simply express a hope that the opportunity to observe this performance provides a focused moment of reflection and shared condolences.The Conversation


John Burge, Professor of Composition and Theory, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

After a big year for cryptocurrencies, what’s on the horizon in 2022?

The market for cryptocurrencies has expanded dramatically in the last year. With this uptick of activity, what’s next in 2022 for cryptocurrencies?

Bitcoin cryptocurrency
In 2021, cryptocurrency Bitcoin made strides towards mainstream acceptance with major websites like Expedia and Microsoft accepting the coin as a means of exchange. (Unsplash / Andre-Francois McKenzie)

The year 2021 was marked by several major breakthroughs for cryptocurrencies.

For one, new crypto applications like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) gained ground, with sales of these digital assets setting new records at major auction houses. Secondly, Bitcoin made strides towards mainstream acceptance with major websites like Expedia and Microsoft accepting the coin as a means of exchange. Third, in September, El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept bitcoin as legal tender.


There are many more examples of how the market for cryptocurrencies has expanded just in the last year. With this uptick of activity, what’s ahead in 2022 for cryptocurrencies?

We believe there are three main areas where cryptocurrencies will gain steam in the next year: greater acceptance of Bitcoin as a means of payment, increased regulatory scrutiny and a rise in NFT activity.

The embrace of Bitcoin

Understanding what motivates individuals to adopt Bitcoin has been a challenge for researchers. A recent study suggests five main factors contribute to someone’s likelihood of using Bitcoin:

  • Trust in the system
  • Online word of mouth
  • Quality of the web platforms available for transaction
  • Perceived riskiness of the investment
  • Expectations about Bitcoin’s performance

Other studies have added more nuances to this argument by considering gender, age and educational level as equally important factors.

The conditions in the crypto space have made it increasingly likely that Bitcoin will become mainstream in the near future.

First, there’s increased activity in online communities like Twitter and Reddit, where even crypto novices can exchange information with seasoned investors to obtain word-of-mouth advice about price predictions and trading strategies.

Second, there has been an explosion of new crypto-exchanges — or trading platforms where one can exchange fiat currency for crypto — and major investments into the technological infrastructure of existing exchanges. These infrastructure investments have expanded access to crypto markets and also piqued the interest of institutional investors.

Institutional involvement, regulatory scrutiny

The last year has seen institutional players like the European Investment Bank (EIB) — the lending arm of the European Union — take a stance on crypto.

In April, the EIB issued a 100 million euro digital bond on the Ethereum blockchain. Goldman Sachs, Banco Santander and Société Générale were also involved in the issuance. Research has pointed to institutional adoption as a turning point for widespread crypto adoption, and it would appear we’re quickly heading there.

Altogether, the increased availability of points of sale that accept Bitcoin as a means of exchange and institutional investment in the space will likely lead to greater acceptance of Bitcoin as a method of payment in 2022.

After cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance (DeFi) is widely regarded as the next frontier in fintech. DeFi provides the opportunity to create decentralized systems that rely on distributed ledger technology to facilitate peer-to-peer loans, create new financial securities like stablecoins or even offer new models of corporate governance.

Regulators also appear to be increasingly paying attention. In November, the European Council — the body that defines the political priorities of the European Union — announced its position on the Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) framework, which will provide increased regulatory clarity over cryptoassets and DeFi.

In the same month, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of the United States produced a joint statement announcing that they would produce a set of policy directives on crypto.

Researchers have pointed to a lack of regulation as a major barrier to mainstream crypto acceptance. Increased government oversight, coupled with the move by several countries to consider digital versions of their national currencies, are likely to result in a lot more regulatory activity in 2022.

Behnam Norouzi
At a minimum, crypto enthusiasts must do their due diligence before investing. (Unsplash / Behnam Norouzi)

A rise in NFT activity

The year 2021 brought a new wave of sales of NFTs. An NFT can offer proof of ownership of, for instance, digital art in the same way a physical canvas can offer proof of ownership of a Vincent Van Gogh painting.

Although NFTs began as a way to formalize ownership of digital art, they have since expanded to include other types of digital property, including digital real estate.

Sales of NFTs are setting new records — a recent one raised US$17.1 million at Sotheby’s. As a result, the auction house launched Metaverse, an NFT-only marketplace to facilitate sales of digital works.

As new NFT applications emerge, this space will likely continue to grow in 2022.

Buyer beware

Despite these investment opportunities, we urge crypto investors to be skeptical of claims they read in online communities. At a minimum, crypto enthusiasts must do their due diligence before investing.

What is sure to emerge in 2022 are new frauds and schemes. Take, for instance, the SquidGame crypto that capitalized on the popular Netflix show but was a fraud. Or the fake Banksy NFT that sold for 244,000 British pounds.

Research on the behaviour of retail investors has found some are highly susceptible to the “fear of missing out.”

Therefore, it may be difficult to turn down a tip from your hair stylist or your best friend’s cousin on the next hot crypto opportunity. However, crypto investors should educate themselves on the technology and the basics of financial markets if they want to prudently get involved.

Crypto, after all, remains speculative and is not for everyone.The Conversation


Erica Pimentel, Assistant Professor, Smith School of Business, Queen's University; Bertrand Malsch, Associate Professor of Accounting, Smith School of Business, Queen's University, and Nathaniel Loh, fourth-year Commerce student and Junior Fellow of the CPA Ontario Centre for Corporate Reporting and Professionalism, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Support and collaboration with healthcare providers can help people make health decisions

Shared decision-making upholds person-centered care and supports people to take charge of their own health: their views, input and experiences are important contributors to health plans.


The Conversation: Shared decision-making upholds person-centred care and supports people to take charge of their own health: their views, input and experiences are important contributors to health plans.
Shared decision-making is a patient-centered approach to health choices that considers a patient’s values as well as clinical evidence. (Unsplash)

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented interest in science, as people everywhere were faced with making decisions that affected their health. These included decisions such as following public health protective measures, getting vaccinations and accessing health-care services.

All of this has taken place in rapidly evolving, uncertain environments. The events related to the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of what constitutes credible information or evidence (research-based information) and how evidence is communicated and used to make decisions. At the start of the pandemic, little was known about COVID-19, and making health decisions was a challenge.

The ongoing pandemic has given rise to what is characterized as an “infodemic” due to the sheer quantity of information available, including the rapid spread of misinformation or fake science reporting. From media outlets reporting in a 24/7 news cycle to the reliance on social media influencers, in many instances with a strong editorial bias, the information environment is bewildering and difficult to navigate.

The amount of information can pose daunting challenges to those who are seeking information to make informed health-care decisions. For example, misinformation has been found to negatively affect people’s willingness to get vaccinated and can lead to risky behaviours.

Making decisions that impact health has been a nearly universal experience during the pandemic: it affected everyone. Often these decisions were made without support from health-care providers. Our health systems have been challenged to better support people to make health-care decisions, such as exploring options to determine how to support informed, values-based COVID-19 vaccination decisions.

We are members of an interdisciplinary, international team of patient partners, health-care providers, educators and researchers that include the perspectives of patients in a leadership capacity. We have been seeking to understand and advance an approach to preparing patients for health decisions called shared decision-making.

Support for people to take charge of their health

“Shared decision-making” is when a person experiencing a health issue works together with their health-care providers to make decisions about screening, treatments or managing chronic conditions. Shared decision-making upholds person-centred care and supports people to take an active role in their health-care decisions.

Standard care provides patients with evidence-based information about health choices. However, with shared decision-making, the person’s individual preferences, beliefs and values are considered in making health decisions, as well as clinical evidence.

Importantly, shared decision-making is a process that supports people to understand the risks and benefits of different options through discussion and information sharing with their health-care providers.

In fact, shared decision-making has been called “the pinnacle” of person-centred care. A key feature of shared decision-making is the exploration of patient values and priorities and it can be facilitated by using evidence-based decision support tools and approaches.

Shared decision-making upholds person-centered care and supports people to take charge of their health. (Unsplash)

Decision coaching

Patient decision aids and decision coaching support people to have an active role in making decisions. Decision aids include booklets, videos and online tools that make the decision clear, provide options and the pros and cons, and help people clarify what matters to them.

They may be used by patients alone or in consultation with a health-care provider. They have been shown to help people feel more knowledgeable, better informed and clearer about their values. In addition, people probably have a more active role in decision-making and more accurate risk perception.

Our team viewed it as important to determine the unique contribution of decision coaching, an intervention with strong potential to help people prepare for health-care decisions. Decision coaching is delivered by trained health-care providers to support people facing decisions, with or without the use of an evidence-based tool (such as a patient decision aid).

We conducted a systematic review to assess the effects of decision coaching. The review included 28 studies that covered a range of medical conditions with treatment and screening decisions.

While further research is needed on many outcomes, we found that decision coaching may improve participants’ knowledge (related to their condition, options, outcomes, personal values, preferences) when used with evidence-based information. Our findings do not indicate any significant adverse effects (for example, decision regret, anxiety) with the use of decision coaching.

Although we began our systematic review before the COVID-19 pandemic, our exploration of decision coaching is even more relevant given the decision demands of the pandemic and accompanying difficulty of the decisions.

Experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that, in rapidly changing complex health-care environments, strategies that uphold person-oriented health care are critical. Shared decision-making tools and approaches, ideally using decision aids and decision coaching, can contribute to shaping person-centred health-care services that puts people first and upholds the principle of “no decision about me, without me.” To make the best health decisions for themselves and their families, people need support and opportunities to work with trusted health-care providers.

Maureen Smith, chair of the Cochrane Consumer Network Executive, co-authored this article.

______________________________________The Conversation

Janet Jull, Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University; Dawn Stacey, Chair professor, School of Nursing, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa, and Sascha Köpke, Professor, Institute of Nursing Science, University of Cologne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

2021: The Year in Research

A review of the major initiatives, the funding and awards garnered, and the research that made headlines over the last twelve months.

Each year, we take a moment in December to reflect on the accomplishments of our community in advancing research that helps us tackle some of the world’s most pressing questions and societal challenges.

[Photo of three researchers working in a lab]

While 2021 offered glimmers of hope in moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it also tested and challenged our research community in myriad other ways. In balance, this year also saw Queen’s rank 1st in Canada and 5th in the world in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which provided a testament to the impact of the university’s research and scholarship in advancing social impact and sustainability within and beyond our local community.

Through all of this, research prominence remained a key driver for Queen’s and our researchers continued to make national and international headlines for their discoveries and award-winning scholarship.

Join us as we review some of the highlights of 2021.

Recognizing research leadership

In 2021, Queen’s welcomed Nancy Ross as the new Vice-Principal (Research). Dr. Ross, an accomplished research administrator and renowned expert in population health, joined the university in August and succeeded Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse, who had been interim in the role since 2018.

[Photo of Dr. Nancy Ross]
Dr. Nancy Ross began her five-year term as Vice-Principal (Research) on August 1, 2021.

This year saw Queen’s researchers win some of Canada’s top awards and honours for research excellence and the university ranked third in Canada for awards per faculty member (2022 Maclean’s University Rankings).

Our international expertise in cancer research and cancer clinical trials was cemented with Elizabeth Eisenhauer’s receipt of the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science, and Joe Pater receiving the inaugural Canadian Cancer Society Lifetime Contribution Prize.

Praveen Jain was honoured with the prestigious IEEE Medal in Power Engineering, the highest international award in the field of electrical power, and world-renowned philosopher Will Kymlicka’s contributions to the humanities were recognized with the RSC Pierre Chauveau medal.

Queen’s also had a successful year earning fellowships within Canada’s national academies. Sari van Anders, Heather Castleden, and Karen Lawford were named members of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists  and professor emeritus John Berry was named a Fellow. Health administrators and research leaders Jane Philpott, Kieran Moore, Doug Munoz, and John Muscedere were inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and Kim McAuley, Mark Diederichs, Mark F. Green, and Ugo Piomelli were elected to the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

Research that made headlines around the world

An exoskeleton designed by Queen's engineering researchers Michael Shepertycky, Qingguo Li, and Yan-Fei Liu that improves walking efficiency was featured in the leading academic journal Science and international media outlets, including the New York Times.

Health expert Christopher Mueller developed mDETECT, a cancer detection test that provides a real-time response to chemotherapy and early detection of relapse, while researchers Amber Simpson and Farhana Zulkernine applied AI and natural language processing techniques to CT scans, to predict cancer spread.

The much-anticipated UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) dominated headlines around the world and Queen’s environmental experts Kyla Tienhaara and John Smol shared their hopes for conference outcomes. On the ground at COP26, Ryan Riordan of the Institute for Sustainable Finance provided key takeaways and next steps for global governments. In the Canadian arctic, Queen’s researchers, the Government of Nunavut, and Indigenous community partners worked together to develop an innovative approach to studying the impact of climate change by monitoring the health and movements of polar bears.

[Photo of polar bears in the Artic]
BEARWATCH, a project led by Queen's researchers in partnership with local communities, governments, and other university collaborators, received funding from Genome Canada's Large-Scale Applied Research Project competition and the Ontario Genomics Institute to develop a non-invasive method for tracking polar bear health in the Canadian Artic.

New research by Chris Spencer showed that the mid-Proterozoic period, about 1.8 to 0.8 billion years ago, dubbed as the “boring billon” was actually a time of great mountain-building events. Researchers at the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research joined the cast from The Curse of Oak Island to hunt for gold and silver treasure sediments in the water collected from boreholes on a Nova Scotia isle.

[Photo of highly deformed rocks from the Sperrgebiet region of Southern Namibia by Christopher Spencer]
A geologist exploring 1-billion-year-old and highly deformed rocks from the Sperrgebiet region of southern Namibia. These rocks experienced significant deformation and extreme metamorphism during a continental collision over a billion years ago. (Photo by Christopher Spencer)

Funding future research

In 2021, Queen’s continued to attract competitive funding and awards, through a number of national and international programs. Hundreds of grants for new projects and research infrastructure were secured through CHIR, SSHRC, NSERC, and CFI, Canada’s national funding agencies, and other partners.

Here are a few examples:

  • More than $10 million was secured by Queen’s researchers through CFI’s Innovation Fund for infrastructure that will help to combat climate change, treat cancer, and understand the fabric of the universe
  • Over $6 million was awarded to Queen’s researchers through NSERC’s Alliance Grants to collaborate with industry partners in areas such as computing, wireless communications, and nuclear power
  • Eight doctoral students earned prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for exceptional scholarly achievement and leadership skills
  • Over 125 Queen’s researchers across disciplines received support from SSHRC, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and NSERC as part of a bundled funding announcement under the banner of “Supporting BIG Ideas”
  • Queen’s researchers received over $11.5M funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for projects addressing human health issues from cancer and pain to healthy aging
  • With $1.6 million in funding, NSERC’s CREATE program supported the implementation of an experiential graduate training and research program in medical informatics, led by Parvin Mousavi at Queen’s
  • A multidisciplinary team of Queen’s researchers received $7.9 million from Genome Canada for a new project exploring a microbial platform for breaking down and valorizing waste plastic, which can then be repurposed to produce recycled products
  • Cathy Crudden received the largest NSERC Discovery Grant in Canada (valued at $605k over five years) for her breakthrough work in novel organic coatings

[Photo of a researcher reviewing a sample on a desktop]

Mobilizing our knowledge

This year, we were again challenged to find creative ways to engage with our audiences and mobilize expertise. Research and alumni experts joined forces to provide insight into our post-pandemic future, through the Road to Recovery virtual event series. These events, moderated by multimedia journalist and Queen’s alumnus Elamin Abdelmahmoud, reached over 1000 attendees.  

Science Rendezvous Kingston celebrated its milestone 10th anniversary and marked it with a series of virtual events and the development of an interactive, virtual Exploratorium with no geographical limitations to participation. Audiences also had the opportunity to experience, in-person and virtually, artistic interpretations of the elusive dark matter. The exhibition and residency project, Drift: Art and Dark Matter, generated by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the McDonald Institute, and SNOLAB, brought together artists and scientists in the quest to understand the invisible substance that comprises about 80 per cent of the universe.

[osèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.]
Josèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.

The WE-Can (Women Entrepreneurs Canada) program led by Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) celebrated supporting over 800 women from underrepresented groups and sectors regionally in achieving their entrepreneurial goals and pivoting their programs to an online format. This year’s virtual Indigenous Research Collaboration Day incorporated the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals in highlighting the importance of collaboration in research with Indigenous communities.

Hundreds of Queen’s researchers provided expert commentary to the media in 2021, and our community continued to mobilize their research and expertise through fact-based analysis on The Conversation Canada’s news platform. In 2021, 77 Queen’s graduate students and faculty published 74 articles that garnered over 1.5 million reads.

Congratulations to the Queen’s research community for their resilience and successes this year. We look forward to seeing what new research and opportunities 2022 will bring. For more information about research at the university, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

Breaking down linguistic barriers

New Queen’s research reveals the potential impact of language on immigrant health outcomes.

[Photo of a hospital waiting room]
Patient waiting room in a healthcare facility (Unsplash)

Immigrants represent two-thirds of Canada's population growth and make up more than 20 per cent of the nation's population (Statistics Canada). As Canada’s largest age group – the baby boomers – enter their senior years, elderly immigrants along with them, many are facing several mental and physical health issues. Many aging immigrants, however, in addition to managing their health, also must contend with linguistic barriers that discourage interaction with the healthcare system.

A Sri Lankan-born, Canadian immigrant himself, researcher Don Thiwanka Wijeratne (Internal Medicine and Public Health) is aiming to uncover how immigrant health is impacted by the linguistic barriers that exist in healthcare. Along with his collaborators from Queen’s (Gerald Evans and Sudeep Gill), the University of Toronto, and McGill University, he recently published a study in Drugs and Therapy Perspectives, analyzing the different rates at which long-standing Canadian residents and immigrants undergo unplanned, emergency hospital visits.

In order to focus their research, the team looked at the use of a common blood thinner called Warfarin, used to prevent blood clots, among three groups: long-standing Canadian residents, language proficient (LP) immigrants, and non-language proficient (NP) immigrants, all over 65 years of age. The study documented how often members from each group presented at the hospital for a health emergency related to the use of Warfarin.

Dr. Wijeratne’s team found that older immigrants, both LP and NP, who immigrated to Canada in the last five years may be less likely to seek medical attention for emergency healthcare needs than their long-standing Canadian resident counterparts. Similarly, non-language proficient immigrants were less likely to present to the hospital with unplanned healthcare visits in comparison to language proficient immigrants.

[Photo of Don Thiwanka Wijeratne]
Dr. Don Thiwanka Wijeratne (Internal Medicine and Public Health)

“Language challenges can reinforce systemic and social-cultural barriers to accessing healthcare services and further, prolonged language barriers have been strongly associated with poor health outcomes,” says Dr. Wijeratne. “Hence, to optimize healthcare provision, it’s important to explore the true effects of immigrant health and healthcare utilization at a population level.”

One explanation for the discrepancy in the number of hospital visits between immigrants and long-standing residents is a phenomenon often referred to as the “healthy immigrant effect.” This effect is thought to be the result of several factors, including immigration screening, which favours healthier candidates, proactiveness among immigrants in seeking preventive and primary healthcare services, and the fact that many older immigrants coming into the country are often cared for by family members who provide physical care and help them navigate linguistic barriers. The culminating impact of these factors is that immigrants in general exhibit better health than their Canadian resident counterparts and thus, normally experience a lower number of health emergencies.

Less encouraging, however, is what the study’s findings indicate about the healthcare experiences of non-language proficient immigrants. Dr. Wijeratne’s team found that those who were not fluent in English or French were less likely to present to hospital with unplanned emergency healthcare visits than language proficient immigrants. This may indicate a serious lack of linguistic accessibility provisions in hospitals, and the team offered suggestion of how healthcare systems might look to remedy these shortcomings.

“Ready resources, including interpretation and representation of more diverse ethnicities among healthcare workers, will facilitate communication in multiple languages and offer more culturally attuned service provision, catering to cultural diversity,” says Dr. Wijeratne.

The study received funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term care, under the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN), and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute. Dr. Wijeratne and his team plan to continue their research on this issue by leveraging the Canadian immigration database, which can be linked to healthcare utilization databases in Ontario. These population-level analyses will facilitate exploration of knowledge gaps and unique healthcare needs for non-language proficient immigrants.

“These findings are significant because they highlight potential shortcomings in our healthcare system that, if left unfixed, could threaten the lives of a large portion of our population," Dr. Wijeratne notes. 

For more information on Dr. Wijeratne and his research, follow him on Twitter (@Dr_DTW).


Subscribe to RSS - Research Prominence